Ferengi

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Ferengi
The Ferengi Alliance
Ferengis1.jpg
A trio of Ferengi
Founder Grand Nagus Gint
Home world Ferenginar
Capital(s) City of Commerce
Official language(s) Ferengi
Currency Gold-Pressed Latinum
Quadrant(s) Alpha

The Ferengi /fəˈrɛŋɡi/ are a fictional extraterrestrial race from the Star Trek universe. They first appeared in "The Last Outpost", the fifth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, during which they made first contact with the United Federation of Planets in 2364 on the planet Delphi Ardu, though they had been mentioned in the series' pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint". They and their culture are characterized by a mercantile obsession with profit and trade, and their constant efforts to swindle unwary customers into unfair deals. They are also known for their business acumen and for rampant misogyny. They also sometimes force their women into the sex trade.[1] Notable Ferengi characters include Quark, Rom, Nog, Ishka, Zek, and Brunt, all of whom were featured prominently in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Their home planet, Ferenginar, is the center of the Ferengi Alliance and is governed by the Grand Nagus and a Commerce Authority made primarily of the Council of Economic Advisors (formerly Board of Liquidators). Like most of their culture, their religion is also based on the principles of capitalism: they offer prayers and monetary offerings to a "Blessed Exchequer" in hopes of entering the "Divine Treasury" upon death, and fear an afterlife spent in the "Vault of Eternal Destitution".[2]

Concept and creation[edit]

The Ferengi were originally meant to replace the Klingons on Star Trek: The Next Generation as the Federation's arch-rival[citation needed], but viewers could not see such comical looking creatures as posing any kind of consistent threat. Thus, Paramount repurposed them as a one-dimensional nuisance, and plots involving them were usually comedic ones. Paramount instead revived the Romulans at the end of season one, introduced the Borg in season two, and later the Cardassians in season four to serve as the Federation's main rivals.

In "Encounter at Farpoint" the Bandi leader Groppler Zorn is the first to mention the Ferengi when he threatens to sell Farpoint Station to them, to which Picard said he hoped the Ferengi found the Bandi as tasty as their last associates. References in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made it clear that the Klingons and the Cardassians had been interacting with the Ferengi for years before "Encounter at Farpoint", yet apparently the Federation never received information about the Ferengi in data exchanges with either race. In internal Star Trek chronology, however, the earliest known reference to the race occurs in the 2002 Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Dear Doctor", when, in 2151, a Valakian astronaut that encounters the crew of the Enterprise (NX-01) mentions the Ferengi in passing, but the Enterprise crew do not recognize the name. The crew would encounter the Ferengi themselves later that season in the episode "Acquisition", but would never learn the name of their race and thus not make the connection with the race mentioned by the Valakian astronaut.

Star Trek: The Next Generation first featured the three original Ferengi in the episode titled "The Last Outpost". The original three Ferengi names were Letek (played by Armin Shimerman), Mordoc, and Kayron.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the series that focused the most on the Ferengi. Deep Space Nine heavily revised and expanded upon the Ferengi, removing the "fierce threat" slant that Next Generation had pursued, and embracing the Ferengi as a race of comedic, greedy merchants. Armin Shimerman joined the regular cast of the show as Ferengi bartender Quark. Other Ferengi also appeared on the show, most notably Quark's brother Rom (Max Grodénchik) and Rom's son Nog (Aron Eisenberg). Nog would later become the first ever Ferengi in Starfleet. Deep Space Nine, therefore, featured many episodes that centered around the Ferengi and explored their culture in depth. It was on Deep Space Nine that Ferenginar was first seen.

Anatomy[edit]

The Ferengi are a humanoid species, somewhat smaller than humans, usually reaching approximately 1.5 m (5 ft) in height. Ferengi have unusually large ears, which are more pronounced in males than in females, giving them an excellent sense of hearing. Due to the size of their ears, they can also sense sudden atmospheric and altitude changes within a starship where most other species would not have noticed the changes (DS9: "Starship Down"). The ears, at least in males, are erogenous zones; Ferengi are seen to take sensual delight when their ears are stimulated, described by the word oo-mox. The exact meaning is unclear: "there is no direct translation" See Ménage à Troi (Star Trek: The Next Generation). The Ferengi also colloquially use the word lobes much as the words brains or balls are used in modern English (as in, "I didn't think you had the lobes for that!").

Ferengi also have lobed foreheads, large, ridged noses, ascending ribs, upper and lower lungs, and a four-lobed brain that cannot be read by the telepathic powers of Betazoids or Vulcans, although half-Betazoid Deanna Troi, herself incapable of telepathic contact with non-Betazoids, could empathically sense their emotions, as seen in The Price and other episodes. Data once mentioned Ferengi being "stronger than they appear"; however, in later episodes they are usually shown as being significantly weaker than the average human (or at least as having a disdain for physical combat that gives that illusion). As shown in Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places Ferengi have a great disdain for fair combat which causes them to appear physically weaker than they are (they give up if they have no clear advantage). When mentally controlled by Worf, Quark's body was naturally as powerful as that of a Klingon, enabling him to easily subdue multiple enemy combatants (due in part to Worf's skill), yet when Quark controlled his own body he appeared too weak to beat even a single enemy. Ferengi teeth resemble jagged spikes, and they use a hand-held "tooth sharpener" to maintain them. Generally, whenever Ferengi (at least males) are assaulted, injured, or in some kind of general distress, they emit a shrill scream.

Society[edit]

Culture[edit]

The Ferengi originate from the planet Ferenginar, in the center of the Ferengi Alliance located in the Alpha Quadrant. Precisely what the Ferengi Alliance consisted of was never revealed; it may simply encompass Ferenginar and any uninhabited planets that the Ferengi have colonized, since there was little indication that the Ferengi government exercised authority over any species other than its own.

The Two Hundred Eighty-Five Rules of Acquisition compose the sacred code on which all of Ferengi society is based. They were first written down by Gint, the first Grand Nagus (the title of the leader of the Ferengi Alliance). The title "Rules of Acquisition" was chosen as a clever marketing ploy (since the rules are merely guidelines) and Gint numbered his first rule one hundred sixty-two to create a demand for the other one hundred sixty-one Rules that had not yet been created.

Most of the rules were written by Ira Steven Behr, a producer of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and he has published many of them in a book The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (ISBN 0-671-52936-6), the cover of which credits authorship as being "By Quark as told to Ira Steven Behr". Additional rules were published in Legends of the Ferengi (ISBN 0-671-00728-9), by Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe. In the latter, "Quark" includes a number of anecdotes, both from Ferengi history and his own past, to illustrate the rules in question.

Ferengi culture is so devoted to unregulated capitalism that concepts such as labor unions, sick leave, vacations, or paid overtime for workers are considered abhorrent, because they would interfere with the exploitation of workers. Ferengi workers don't particularly mind this system, because they all want to eventually gather enough wealth to become employers themselves, exploiting their own workers. In addition to the Rules, the Ferengi also recognize the five Stages of Acquisition: infatuation, justification, appropriation, obsession, and resale. The five Stages of Acquisition may be based on the five stages of grief.

Until the episodes "Ferengi Love Songs" (in which it was revealed that Ishka, the mother of Quark and Rom, had become romantically involved with Grand Nagus Zek), and "Profit and Lace", the laws and society of the Ferengi were extremely harsh towards its women. Selling one's mother for gold-pressed latinum, the principal form of legal tender, is an act that would be looked on with admiration in Ferengi society. Moreover, female Ferengi were forbidden to learn to read, acquire profit, talk to strangers, or even wear clothes. They could only leave the house with the permission of the eldest male of the family. Ferengi women traditionally softened food for members of their family by chewing it (though not all females did this). The rules regarding females were not always followed; Ishka regularly wore clothes and talked to strangers, and it is unlikely that she was the only rule-violator. Given that Ferengi had no objection to doing business with women of other species, it can be reasonably assumed that their attitudes toward females had evolved over time. Female Ferengi gained the legal right to wear clothing and leave the house in "Profit and Lace".

By the time of Deep Space Nine's penultimate series episode, "The Dogs of War", it was indicated that Ferengi capitalism was coming under greater regulation, with historic changes towards left-wing politics and policies being made with respect to things such as universal health care, workers' rights, etc. Zek's appointment of Rom to be his successor as Grand Nagus suggests that this trend will likely continue, given that Rom was long-depicted as more liberal, compassionate, and sensitive than more traditional Ferengi such as Quark.

Noteworthy Ferengi males are neither buried nor cremated when they die. Rather, the dying male puts his body up for auction to the highest bidder and the dead body is carved up into little pieces that are vacuum-desiccated, preserved and packaged for sale as mementos of a worthy life. (In one DS9 episode, Constable Odo expresses an interest, when the time comes, in buying Quark's remains. In another episode, Quark, faced with the eventuality of death on a far-off planet laments that his carcass will remain unmourned and "unsold").

A subset of the Ferengi culture are known as Eliminators, and they routinely hire themselves out as assassins to anyone willing to pay for their services. Most Ferengi, however, view Eliminators as eccentric at best (since Eliminators appear to enjoy the sport of killing more than the profits gained thereby) or dangerous psychopaths at worst (killing potential customers, which is not good for business), and avoid them whenever possible.

An important component of Ferengi cooking appears to be insects and other small invertebrates. Some, such as tube grubs and gree worms, are nearly always served alive (like the Klingon dish gagh), while others are served jellied or in a juice form. Unlike how humans are repulsed at the idea of eating Klingon gagh (live "serpentine worms"), Quark has been observed eating gagh on several occasions, though commenting that he thinks it tastes bland and boring. Popular beverages include Eelwasser and Slug-O-Cola ("The slimiest drink in the galaxy"). The cuisine of the Ferengi has achieved little acceptance among other cultures, with a few notable exceptions. Ferengi invented the alcohol substitute synthehol, and the alcoholic drink "black hole" is popular among some non-Ferengi.

Outside of Ferenginar, many Ferengi enjoy the food of other cultures in addition to traditional Ferengi cuisine, and have integrated it into their menus. However, most Ferengi have a particular distaste for human food. In several episodes of DS9, Quark expresses his extreme distaste for root beer, which he describes as "so bubbly, and cloying, and happy. Just like the Federation."

When welcoming guests (or perhaps Liquidators or other officials in particular) into his home, a Ferengi male will recite a traditional greeting: "Welcome to our home. Please place your thumbprint on the legal waivers and deposit your admission fee in the slot by the door. Remember, my house is my house." The guest replies, "As are its contents". The notion that everything (even traditional hospitality) is for sale on Ferenginar is shown elsewhere: in the Tower of Commerce, an elevator ride is extortionately expensive, and even the waiting room chairs cost three slips of latinum to use (standing is one slip).

A certain branch of Ferengi government known as the Ferengi Commerce Authority (especially its agents, known as Liquidators) are almost universally loathed by all Ferengi, and are possibly meant as a parody of the Internal Revenue Service. Liquidator Brunt was a recurring character on Deep Space Nine, who often found himself at odds with Quark.

A notable Ferengi pastime is the strategic game Tongo, played with cards and a roulette wheel. At each turn the player has the choice to "evade", "confront", "acquire", or "retreat". A Global Tongo Championship is held each year on Ferenginar.

Another Ferengi game using a similar wheel is Dabo. About ten players can sit around the dabo wheel, and each either "buys", "sells" or "converts" their gold-pressed latinum (money) in preparation for the next spin of the wheel. Proprietors who house dabo games in their establishments often employ attractive women (colloquially, "dabo girls") to run the games, entice customers to play and distract their attention.

Religion[edit]

The Ferengi concepts of the afterlife are a mirror of their pursuit of wealth in life. When a Ferengi dies, he is said to meet the Blessed Exchequer, who reviews the financial statements of that Ferengi's entire life. If he earned a profit, he is ushered into Ferengi heaven: the Divine Treasury, where the Celestial Auctioneers allow him to bid on a new life. Ferengi who were not financially successful in life are damned to the Vault of Eternal Destitution.[3]

When a Ferengi prays or bows in reverence, he holds his hands in a bowl shape with his wrists together. A typical Ferengi prayer begins with this phrase: "Blessed Exchequer, whose greed is eternal, allow this bribe to open your ears and hear this plea from your most humble debtor." As is typical, this is accompanied by placing a slip of latinum into a small statue made in the Exchequer's likeness.

Ferengi also make regular pilgrimages to Earth's Wall Street, which they view as a holy site of commerce and business.

Economics and trade[edit]

The Ferengi concept of conducting trade and business can be best described in the episode "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River". It introduces the Great Material Continuum, a metaphor in Ferengi culture that describes trade as the binding force of all life in the universe, where there are "millions of worlds, all with too much of one thing and not enough of the other." The Continuum is a river whose current flows from those who have to those who want. According to this concept, there is a finite amount of wealth and goods in the universe, and any goods taken from one part of the "river" must be appropriately replaced or paid for by other methods. Thus, one must be sufficiently knowledgeable of the wants and needs of others to properly conduct business. A Ferengi sufficiently skilled at navigating this continuum will certainly prosper and amass great wealth and power. The concept is explained by the metaphor of a Ferengi merchant on a river using his boat to acquire goods in one city, then trade them at another city which needs them in exchange for something the second city has a surplus of, and so on. In the process, if the river is navigated correctly, every city along the river obtains things it needs, and the boat-trader profits from his service performing the exchanges.

If a Ferengi navigates the river properly, he can accumulate wealth and distribute it throughout society, at various points along the river. This may demonstrate an important distinction, even in Ferengi culture, between selfishness and greed. Ferengi believe that greed, while essential to their concept of economics, is not inherently selfish, because the pursuit of greed serves a greater good. This is similar to the "Greed is Good" speech made by Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street. Alternatively, the concept may demonstrate that Ferengi culture views both selfishness and greed as completely compatible with improving the wealth of the universe as a whole (which is a fundamental tenet of neoclassical economics).

The currency of the Ferengi is latinum, a liquid substance of extremely high value. It is impregnated into gold slips, strips, bars, or bricks in standardized amounts for easier handling; in this form, it is referred to as "gold-pressed latinum". The gold serves only as a carrier for the latinum and is worthless to the Ferengi. Under their exchange system, there are 20 strips to a bar and 100 slips to a strip, or 2,000 slips to a bar (no exchange between bars and bricks is ever mentioned). Latinum derives its value from being non-replicable by any known existing or predicted replication technology.[4] In the episode "Who Mourns for Morn?", Morn (a regular customer at Quark's bar) regurgitates some latinum into a small glass and gives it to Quark, who exclaims that it must be 100 bricks' worth.

Language[edit]

In the Star Trek television shows, Ferengi, like almost every other alien race are almost always shown speaking in English, but as with other races, they are known to have their own language. The Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men" shows Ferengi speaking their own language when their universal translators malfunction. (In that episode, we see that Ferengi typically wear their Universal Translators implanted into their ears.) In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Acquisition" the script is mostly in their language until they get the Universal translator working. They are one of the few alien races whose language has been heard by the home viewer. Several episodes show examples of the Ferengi written language or script, some of them being animated on computer displays, as if they were a futuristic version of a Ferengi stock ticker. Ferengi writing is meant to resemble a flow chart. As a result of the rainy climate, the Ferengi language has 178 different words for "rain" (in a retread of the popular—but incorrect—"Eskimo postulate" of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) and none for "crisp".

There exists an unofficial constructed Ferengi language.

Geography and architecture[edit]

The Ferengi homeworld, Ferenginar, is a Class M planet in the Star Trek universe, and is the capital of the Ferengi Alliance. The atmospherics of Ferenginar are stable, and it is usually raining heavily which results in a swamp-like surface.[5]

Ferengi buildings are generally low, dome-shaped buildings with narrow doorless entrances. At 40 stories high, the tallest building on Ferenginar is the Tower of Commerce, which is adorned with a large spire. The Tower marks the Sacred Marketplace and is home to the Grand Nagus, leader of the Ferengi Alliance.[5] The 1995 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Family Business was first to show the planet. In that episode, customs were depicted including admission fees for visitors to a person's home, and charging for the use of elevators and even seats.

Ferengi Alliance[edit]

In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Ferengi Alliance is the group of inhabited and controlled worlds located northeast of the Federation on the galactic map. It is a relatively small but a disproportionately powerful group that plays a significant role in the economy of the quadrant. While it is not one of the "Big Four" superpowers which dominate Alpha Quadrant politics (the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Cardassians), the Ferengi Alliance is a fairly potent middle power.

The Ferengi Alliance is ultimately controlled by the Grand Nagus, followed by his subordinates in the Ferengi Commerce Authority. The ultimate aim of this group is to make profit, either through galactic expansion, acquisition (see the Rules of Acquisition), or trade. In the past, acquisition has been gained through attacking other ships and worlds and taking anything of value. More recently it has been determined that one cannot make a profit if one is blown up, and that peaceful trade is more profitable, so this hostile approach has been eliminated on the whole.

The Ferengi Alliance operates on a strictly patriarchal society in which women are forbidden to wear clothing or leave the home, and can absolutely never make profit. There is a strong Ferengi presence around Deep Space Nine as the gateway to business in the Gamma Quadrant.

The Alliance remained neutral during the destructive Dominion War which laid waste to much of the Alpha Quadrant. The effects of the war on the Alliance are unknown, although it is likely to have suffered economic hardship with the collapse of neighboring economies.

Technology[edit]

D'Kora class
First appearance "The Last Outpost"
Affiliation Ferengi
General characteristics
Armaments Photon torpedoes
Disruptors

Andrew Probert and Greg Jein created a horseshoe-crab-inspired starship for the Ferengi, the D'Kora-class "Marauder".[6] Though mainly used as a tradeship, the D'Kora-class is capable in battle, carrying photon torpedoes and disruptors. Tactically it is about as powerful as a Galaxy-class starship, but only has half as many crew.

Constructed by one of the Ferengi ship conglomerates, the Marauder has proven to be one of the most cost-effective vessels available. They are generally owned by the most powerful businessmen and the Ferengi Commerce Authority. They can be customized to suit the owner's needs, including customized weapon and defensive systems. A crew can even be included during a purchase, for a price.

Though the vessels are mostly used for conventional trade (legal and illegal) around the Alpha and Gamma quadrants, some of the more powerful companies in the Ferengi Alliance use them to attack colonies or other ships, stealing technology or supplies which they can resell.

Famous D'Kora-class ships include the Krayton and the Kreetchta. It was a D'Kora-class starship that Jean-Luc Picard defeated at the Battle of Maxia in 2355, while captain of the USS Stargazer (NCC-2893), using a new tactic known as the "Picard maneuver".

In the non-canon game Star Trek: The Next Generation: Birth of the Federation, the Ferengi are seen using a number of new starships similar to the D'Kora-class. Examples include the Tokorn-class heavy raider and the Glantor-class troop transport.

The D'Kora class starship was included as a part of Decipher, Inc.'s Star Trek Customizable Card Game in the Rules of Acquisition Expansion to the First Edition,[7] and in the game Star Trek: Bridge Commander.

History[edit]

According to Star Trek writers, in ancient times the Ferengi and the Gree vied for control of their planet. Both bartered with their gods for the upper hand, until the Gree gave too much away, and became a food source for the Ferengi.

Before uniting under a Nagus, Ferenginar was divided into warring Commerce Zones. This was known as the "Barter Age".

In about the 9th Millennium B.C., Gint started writing the Rules of Acquisition, laying the basis for Ferengi society.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Little Green Men, set in 1947, featured a Ferengi craft from the 2370s (carrying Quark, Rom, Nog and Odo) crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. This was humanity's first contact with the Ferengi, although "officially" the record showed that the crashed alien ship was actually a weather balloon.

At some point between 1947 and 2151, the Ferengi purchased warp drive technology from the Breen. The technology was traded by a single Breen in exchange for ownership of several ice comets in the Ferengi solar system, as well as a small ice moon and all the Arctic regions on Ferenginar itself. The Breen then departed Ferengi space, never to return. It is a common Ferengi myth that he took the Arctic regions with him, but since Ferengi do not like to be in cold places, none have ever gone to check.

In 2151, a group of Ferengi raiders, using a gas-deploying device, incapacitate the crew of Enterprise and try to steal everything of value. Three crew members manage to foil the Ferengi and take back everything they stole before sending the pirates on their way, though the name of the raiders' race is never revealed to the crew.

In 2355, a (still unknown) Ferengi vessel fired on the USS Stargazer. The Federation commander, Jean-Luc Picard, returned fire, destroying the Ferengi ship, which never identified itself. The Ferengi sensationalized this incident as "The Battle of Maxia". Daimon Bok, the father of the Ferengi who captained that vessel, sought revenge on Picard, first in Next Generation's first-season episode "The Battle", and later in its seventh season, in the episode "Bloodlines".

Notable Ferengi[edit]

Quark was portrayed by Armin Shimerman (left); his brother Rom was portrayed by Max Grodénchik (right)
  • Grand Nagus Zek: leader of the Ferengi
  • Quark: merchant on Deep Space Nine
  • Rom: Quark's brother, Deep Space Nine engineer, Zek's successor as Grand Nagus
  • Nog: Rom's son, first Ferengi in Starfleet
  • Ishka: mother of Quark and Rom, an 'activist' of Ferengi feminism, lover and secret financial advisor of Grand Nagus Zek
  • Arridor : Involved in the negotiations for the use of the Barzan Wormhole (TNG: The Price) became trapped in the Delta Quadrant (VOY: False Profits)
  • Gross : Involved in the negotiations for the use of the Barzan Wormhole (TNG: The Price) became trapped in the Delta Quadrant (VOY: False Profits)
  • Liquidator Brunt: official of the Ferengi Commerce Authority and bane of Quark's life

Interpretation as a parody of Judaism[edit]

In the book Religions of Star Trek, Ross S. Kraemer wrote that "Ferengi religion seems almost a parody of ...Judaism... Critics have pointed out a disturbing correlation between Ferengi attributes (love of profit that overrides communal decency; the large, sexualized head feature, in this case ears) and negative Jewish stereotypes."[8] Commentator Jonah Goldberg wrote that Ferengi were portrayed in The Next Generation as "runaway capitalists with bullwhips who looked like a mix between Nazi caricatures of Jews and the original Nosferatu."[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Booker, M. Keith (2004). Science Fiction Television: A History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 118. ISBN 0-275-98164-9. 
  2. ^ Näser, M.A. Marion (2007). Die Inszenierung von Ethnizität in der Science Fiction am Beispiel Star Trek. GRIN Verlag. p. 21. ISBN 3-638-63978-9. 
  3. ^ Deep Space Nine episode Little Green Men.
  4. ^ Drexler, Doug; & Sternbach, Rick; & Zimmerman, Herman (1998). Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-01563-X. p. 63
  5. ^ a b Ferenginar at official website StarTrek.com
  6. ^ Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Larry Nemecek, pg. 38
  7. ^ "Rules Of Acquisition Cardlist" (PDF). Decipher.com. p. 3. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  8. ^ "Chapter 5: What Happens When You Die?", pg. 180, Ross S. Kraemer, Religions of Star Trek, 2001
  9. ^ "It's Time For A Confession", Jonah Goldberg, The Corner, September 28, 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Legends of the Ferengi (1997), ISBN 0-671-00728-9. The authors worked on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for several years and established most of what is known about the Ferengi. This book contains exclusive insights into the Ferengi.

External links[edit]